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How to Make the Most of a Downsized Wedding

Well, friends, it happened. I got my first email in 6 months with "Hey Alexis, wanted to know if you have some time to connect next week to discuss the possibility of postponing our 2021 wedding to 2022." What's that sound? Oh, just another piece of my soul being murdered by 2020. I want to preface with I THINK IT IS FARRR TOO EARLY to have these conversations for any weddings earlier than May of next year. As we've learned this year, there is so much that can change in just a few short months, but I know for all of our postponed 2020 couples and our didn't-think-COVID-was-going-to-affect-us 2021 couples, the anxiety is beginning to creep in. So let's just bring the scary monster out of the shadow of the closet & talk about it. What if COVID is still trying to cancel love next year? First of all, we learned this year that love is definitely not canceled, but so many of you postponed because you didn't want a small wedding and while of course you always have the option to postpone again, I think many of you are not about that life again and I anticipate postponements becoming more expensive than they were this year as even more vendors start to charge postponement fees. So let's talk about how to make the most of a downsized wedding. HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF CONTRACTED MINIMUMS Food If you're in the position to potentially need to downsize your wedding, you likely already know that catering takes up a huuuuuge part of your budget. If you're contracted into a minimum or you've already paid more on your catering bill than you will likely spend on 50 guests, talk to your caterer about what types of food experiences you can add to meet the minimum/utilize what you've spent. Most of our catering friends in Chicago have the capability to create these insanely creative culinary & bar experiences! Whether you add hand passed mini margs like our friends at Entertaining Company offer, a savory late-night snack to help soak up some of that liq, really BEEF up (heh, see what I did there) your dinner service or all of the above. Floral Many of our floral friends have minimum spend amounts and while in a COVID world they're getting super flexible on this, there's also a certain point where they don't make enough money to make the job worth it and some of you have already paid more than you'd utilize towards your floral invoice with your new anticipated guest count. So how do you make the most of a floral minimum? LIVE YOUR WILDEST FLORAL DREAMS BOO BOO! Only have 5 centerpieces now? Then go lux with it & really make a statement or ask your florist to create mini bouquets for your ushers to hand to each woman as she arrives or add a bloom to every place setting to make a statement or add that statement piece that was out of budget when you thought you were hosting 250 guests! Stationery With Stationery being a physical product (and the post office being an absolute disaster) it's likely that if you're already talking about downsizing your 2021 wedding that your Stationer has already ordered the paper, which means you're locked into what you've contracted. Talk with your Stationer about how to make the most out of the product you've paid for, but some ideas, some lux place cards or menus, turn them into thank you cards for after the wedding, or add an extra insert into your invitations! HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE DOWNSIZED GUEST COUNT So here's the first thing, you just have to accept it for what it is. Would you have liked to have 250 people at your wedding to make it absolute rager? Maybe. But if you're thinking you might potentially have to downsize the wedding, the first step is acceptance. IT IS WHAT IT IS, friends. One thing we've seen this year which I personally think has made these weddings even sweeter is finding ways to include everyone who is in attendance in the wedding. One of our past couples did a family unity ceremony where every guest was given a candle when they walked in and they passed the flame through the guests that were seated, up to the parents and finally to the bride and groom who lit their unity candle together. It's a totally COVID friendly ceremony, so long as everyone is wearing masks, and with only 50 people in attendance, won't take long to do at all. & the reality is that when you're looking at a guest count of 50 people, most likely everyone there is pretty high on the relational ladder, which makes including them in your marriage ceremony even sweeter. Now, what about the guests that had to get cut or would have made the list, but couldn't or weren't comfortable attending? I LOVE TECHNOLOGY! It has made this COVID thing so much more bearable than it would have been without. I don't know about you, but March-July of this year was brought to me directly by Doordash, Tiger King, and Tik Tok. More than likely someone on your wedding team can or knows someone who can set up a live stream experience for all of the guests who couldn't attend to still witness your ceremony. Some streaming experiences (like Be There from our friends at Cage + Aquarium) even have the capability to create virtual experiences for your guests so they too can enjoy your wedding. It might even be worth a convo with your caterer or florist to see if it's possible to send grandpa his boutonniere or send a marg kit to the guests that couldn't attend. If a VIP member can't make it (like a sibling who would have played a key role in the wedding), have them put on their suit/dress and zoom in. Put an iPad on a stand so that they can still stand up at your wedding. For speeches, have them call in and put your DJs mic up to the phone so they can still give their speech. So look, I know this is not your ideal, but there are definitely ways to make this whole intimate wedding thing suuuuper special and go all out in a way you wouldn't have been able to if all of your anticipated guests attended. If you're newly planning a 2021 or 2022 wedding, check out this post for your strategic roadmap to planning your 2021/2022 wedding.

How to Host a Backyard Wedding

COVID has brought back the Backyard Wedding trend and I'm not mad about it. Backyard weddings are special. With twinkle lights in the sky, fresh air, and bonfires, backyard weddings feel like taking a deep breath. My favorite weddings I've ever produced have been outdoor, backyard-feel weddings. But they are not easy to plan! There are tasks that need to be completed and considerations to be made that aren't on your average Pinterest wedding planning checklist. Here is a list of all the preparations for a backyard wedding: Lit, even level, and trimmed paths (suitable for heels and elderly) that are both to and from parking, bathrooms, catering area, etc. Trees trimmed for shuttles Gate wide enough for shuttles Place where shuttles can idle that is not in the way and is legal Power/generators/plenty of outlets and power cords that blend with décor but do not create safety hazards Catering tent, access to power and make sure they have a bathroom with handwashing available. Lawn care Even ground for under the dance floor Dance floor Ample Parking - for guests and vendors Permits (sound, alcohol, tent, etc.- this varies by state) Emergency Plan Low water crossing maps Maps pending GPS does not work well Clear signage (parking attendants can be helpful) Proper draining of event space pending rain Understanding of where the sunset is for photos Rain plan Road conditions in case of rain Restroom/comfort stations Pest control: Mosquitos, ants, snakes, varmints Trash plan Temperature control: fans, heaters, misters (tents require specific units for safety) Getting ready and staging locations Tent installation needs and lighting for when it gets dark Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

6 Can't Miss Wedding Day Moments

Remember Jim & Pam's wedding on The Office when Pam says a friend gave her the advice to take mental pictures of the high points of the day? DON'T MISS THE MOMENTS!! Like, we love a good wedding. It's literally why we're here, but when the day is over all you have are the moments. After experiencing 50+ wedding days, here are our top 6 can't miss moments for your mental scrapbook. 1. That moment you finally FEEL like someone who is getting married. 2. That moment when you see each other for the first time. 3. That moment when you're F-ing married. 4. That moment when you're finally alone. 5. All the happy tears. All of the laughter & smiles. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

Your Strategic Roadmap for Planning Your 2021/2022 Wedding

I’ve been re-reading all of the blog posts I’ve written in the last 4 years that are filled to the brim with actionable tips and sound wedding planning advice and it all reads as utterly useless. As I sat down to plan my August content calendar, every topic that ran through my head felt pointless and tone-deaf. “8 Tasks to Tackle in the first 8 Weeks of Being Engaged” “Why You Need a DJ Who Also Does Weddings vs A Wedding DJ” “WTF is a… Translating Wedding Jargon into English” All worthless when couples are grappling with how the hell to plan a wedding after watching the Wedding Industry Dumpster Fire of 2020 play out on every media outlet and news station. Social distancing, mask requirements, guest limitations, no dancing, lost deposits, rescheduling fees, venues going bankrupt…. Weddings on fire. Then add in an economy on the verge of catastrophe, on-going protests in many major cities across the country & outright unknowns as to the future of our global health crisis… how do engaged couples move forward? I’ve spent the entire month of July talking to dozens of couples who want to start planning but are paralyzed with fear of the unknown. So here is my best attempt at creating a strategy for you to plan your 2021/2022 wedding as confidently as possible & hopefully avoid the tragic heartbreak that 2020 couples have experienced. Start by accepting weddings are going to look different for a while or wait. Just because you’re engaged does not mean you HAVE to get married in the next 2 years. If you absolutely cannot wrap your mind around small events with masks, social distancing & Footloose-esque bans on dancing or eloping then just wait. At this point we have a pretty clear understanding of the possible concessions you’ll have to make if you choose to plan a wedding in the next year or so. You won’t face the possibility of compromise if you’re not already contracted into things. So, if you can’t wrap your mind around it, then it’s best to just wait it out. And if you DO decide to plan a wedding for 2021/2022, it has to be with the acceptance that it might not look the way you envisioned it. Decide on a planning path. The way I see it, if you’re planning a wedding anytime in the next 2 years, you need to pick one of 3 paths: Elopement Mini Wedding: Under 50 Guests. Plan for mini with the capability to expand: Basically plan for 50 guests in all of your contracts (so your minimums reflect your worst-case scenario - think catering, floral, invitations etc), but select a venue that has the capacity to host your best-case scenario. Just make sure to be openly communicative with your vendors that your ideal is to increase your guest count to whatever that number is so that they can effectively plan out their staffing for the year. Decide how far out you’re wanting to plan. If you’re eloping or planning a mini wedding, especially if it’s an all-inclusive offering that is super easy to execute, it’s probably not worth a 2-year wait, but if you’re taking path C, then it might be best to wait until 2022 in hopes that life will have returned to pre-COVID normalcy by that point. Break your guest list into 3 categories: A List: Your top 30-50 you can’t imagine your wedding without B List: The people you’d love to host if legally allowed C List: The people you’re feeling obligated to invite (like your mom’s bridge friend) and maybe you will if the pandemic is over (but honestly, why pay for someone you don’t want/need there?) but they aren’t critical to your wedding day. Ask every single vendor about their COVID policies before you book & get it in writing in your contract. What are their safety requirements? What are their cancellation & postponement policies? Here’s the deal, wedding pros are people too and many are understandably uncomfortable working weddings in a pandemic. You don’t have to like their policies, but if you want to work with them, you do have to respect them. So it’s better that you get this info on the front end instead of feuding with a vendor after they are booked. Create a wedding day emergency fund. I have said many times before that you need to save some of your wedding budget for unexpected emergencies and it’s never been more true. Save for the possibility of having to reprint invitations in the event of a postponement, save for postponement fees, save for additional tables and linens in case social distancing requirements mean fewer guests at each table & more tables. You should have at least a few thousand dollars to cover pandemic related expenses. Know your breaking point. At what point are you ready to call it with this whole wedding thing? I have a couple right now who lost their venue for their original date in February, then postponed 2 months later because of COVID and is now looking at having to postpone again for next year & they are seriously considering, as my bride said, “cutting our losses” and moving on with their lives. You should decide now what that line in the sand is for you & what action steps you’ll take moving forward from there. Work with a Wedding Planner. Whether it’s a Full Service Planner, a Wedding Manager, or something like our new Wedding Planning Collective - you NEED someone who is living and breathing the wedding industry, who is now a pro at postponing an event, and who can give you real advice and actionable steps to take when shit hits the fan. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

How To Love Your Engagement in 4 Easy Steps

I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - being engaged can quickly go from one of the most exciting times in your life to complete suckville in about 2.5 seconds. From becoming apparently independently wealthy the sec that ring goes on your finger to Aunt Karen and all of her ehem - "advice", everyone pestering you for a date, and things like a global pandemic and uncontrollable weather patterns to keep you up at night - it's easy to lose that newly engaged glow. Here are some simple tips for keeping that joyful feeling & loving your engagement. Set boundaries around wedding talk. My husband and I learned quickly after having kids that we HAVE to put some boundaries around when we talk about the kids. Otherwise, they ended up being all we talked about. Same with your wedding. Pick a day of the week that you set as an appointment on your calendar to sit down and hash out all things wedding. That 's not to say that convos won't come up in between those meetings, but having that boundary in place should keep most of it contained. Take breaks. Our planning process is broken up into phases and in between each phase, we take a 30-day break so our couples can date. HELLO. But really, you cannot only plan your wedding for the next 12 months. That is a sure-fire way to have an anticlimactic wedding day. Check the attitude. Want to hate your engagement and your life for years to follow? Treat everyone around you like shit while you're engaged. Or don't & have a splendid engagement. Remember why you're getting married. At the end of the day, as much as my livelihood depends on you believing otherwise, the party basically doesn't matter. I mean, sure it's fun & we all love a good reason to celebrate, but as so many 2020 couples are learning, love can't be canceled and it's truly the reason we're all here. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

The Truth Behind Wedding Inspo

Easily one of the most frustrating conversations I have with you guys (for both me and you) is the one where I have to bridge the gap between what they see on Pinterest and Instagram and what is realistic with their budget. So many times you guys come to me with these grandiose visions for your wedding day picked up directly from Pinterest and Instagram only to have budgets that don't match. And it's not your fault! Stylized editorial shoots are made to be aspirational but don't give viewers any insight as to the cost to replicate the design. You have absolutely zero working knowledge of the actual numbers behind the things you're pinning and saving on these platforms. So let's demystify the pins & help you see more clearly the actual costs behind your fave wedding inspiration. Let's start with some basic facts about catering proposals & venue inclusions. 9/10 your catering proposal does not include a plate or charger at the place setting when your guests sit down. If your meal is plated, your courses will be served on a plate, the plate will not be at the table when guests are seated. If you're serving a station or buffet dinner, plates will be at the stations. The place settings that your catering proposal does include are usually very basic silver or gold fork & knife and a clear water glass. If you add on tableside wine service is when you'll start to see wine glasses added to the table. Similarly, the dinnerware included in your package is usually a basic, white dinnerware set. Any colored glass, modern-looking silverware sets, vintage dinnerware sets, charger plates, etc. are usually additional rentals. Most venues have one or 2 types of chairs that they have inhouse that are included in your rental. If your venue includes a gold or silver Chiavari chair but you have your heart set on an acrylic ghost chair - this will be extra (usually around $20-$30 per chair) Most venues have either rectangular banquet tables (usually 6 or 8ft) and/or round tables (usually 60 or 72 inches). Some venues include those beautiful farmhouse tables, but if they do not, you'd need to rent those to bring them in & they're not cheap because they're expensive to buy, but also expensive to store because of their size and require a ton of labor to transfer because they're heavy AF. Dance floors are not usually white. They are usually wooden pieces that fit together. To make them white (or any color) requires vinyl coverings (added expense) and time (added labor). Linen packages with venues vary but usually range either from a standard offering of white, ivory or black linen to possibly any color of standard poly-cotton (you know this as a regular looking table cloth or napkin). Floral prints, lace overlays, velvet, sequins, etc are not usually included and can range anywhere from $25-100+ per table depending on size and design. Family-style meals require larger tables (and usually smaller centerpieces) so that there is room at the table for all of the dishes and for guests to eat. Now let's talk about floral: Hanging installations are expensive. IDC how "minimal" you want it, it takes A LOT of time (labor) it takes to hang installations above every table (or half, or a third). It takes precision to hang an installation from the ceiling and make sure it is straight and then to duplicate it several times over. This increased the number of people your florist needs to pay to be onsite because simultaneously your ceremony needs to be set, as well as your centerpieces. Then, depending on how much time you have included for set up in your contract, this number may only grow as the florist works within a 3-hour window given by the venue to do 15 hours worth of work. ALSO, depending on the layout, the tables might not even be allowed to be set prior to the installation because they can't work over a set table. So many factors go into quoting installation work & it's not cheap. If you find yourself searching FB groups for "affordable" florists, you can go ahead & cross installations off your list of wants. Those large bohemian bouquets you keep pinning are going to run you about $300-$400. "Just a greenery runner" is not necessarily a budget-friendly choice. If you're wanting those intricate garlands - they are hand-sewn and take hours (labor) to create each one. They also require a bunch of product to get the fullness they'll need to be to have impact & then depending on the length of the table, that number only grows. They are not cheap. If you find yourself saying "just a little greenery", you'll need to have something underneath the greenery to visually "lift" it off of the table (think runner) otherwise it will just blend into the table. Full centerpieces will often require wider tables (not included in your venue) in order to make space for guests to actually sit and eat. This is especially true if you're serving family-style. Most of your venues will require your candles to be enclosed in glass. Glass hurricanes are not cheap, especially for pillar candles because they are so tall. Even the most basic ceremony piece is going to run you a minimum of $600. Those lush ceremony hoops, even with MOSTLY greenery are going to start around $1500 and increase with the amount of floral. Stems/buds at each place setting will run about $2-$10 per place setting. Labor is not just the time the floral team is onsite. It's the number of hours they spend putting together the order with the wholesaler, it's the number of hours they spend processing the floral order when it comes in so the flowers survive your wedding day. It's the number of hours they spend pre-event assembling at their studio. It's the number of hours they spend loading the truck and unloading it at the venue. It's the number of hours they spend breaking down and cleaning up petals off the floor of your venue at the end of the night. It's the number of hours they spend loading and unloading the truck again post-event and cleaning the rentals and storing them again. And now let's discuss stationery & calligraphy: Basic invitation packages do not include belly bands and a thousand extra inserts and a wax seal and a bit of crushed lavender and a velvet envelope liner for good measure. EACH OF THESE THINGS ARE EXTRA. To have your invitations hand calligraphed (is that a word? Help me out calligraphy friends lol) is also an additional cost. Go follow some Calligraphers on Instagram and see how much time (labor) it takes to handwrite the front of one envelope. And then multiply that by 100 envelopes and add in return addresses and return envelopes with mailing & return addresses. Place cards, menus, table numbers & signage are all additional costs and will vary based on the design & materials required. Anything handpainted (watercolor fans, I'm talking to you) is going to cost you your right arm. That shit takes forever. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

How to Downsize Your Coronavirus Wedding

Well, it's official... Yesterday afternoon Gov Pritzker released his plan to reopen the state with gatherings of up to 50 people being allowed in phase 4, but phase 5 of a fully reopened state not being on the table until either A. a vaccine is widely available B. a highly effective treatment is widely available or C. No new cases for an extended length of time. That being said, the reality of being able to host an event over 50 people in 2020 or even early 2021 is unlikely. The truth is, we don't know how long it will take to meet the requirements that allow us into Phase 5, which means weddings of over 50 people in the foreseeable future is not likely. Many 2020 couples have chosen to postpone & there's a ton of resources out in wedding land on how to do that well & efficiently, but what's a couple to do if they want to host their wedding on their original date - just on a smaller scale (if legally allowed of course)? Here's your step by step plan to downsizing your Coronavirus wedding. Step 1: Reach out to your venue. Find out if they will be allowing small weddings once we reach Phase 4. Step 2: Reach out to your caterer (or combine this with Step 1 if your venue is providing catering) & ask if they'll work with you to lower food & beverage minimums. A few notes here: You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Be kind. Your vendors don't owe you anything. (Just like I don't believe couples owe vendors anything) They do not HAVE to make exceptions to their contracts. Most wedding pros are happy to work with couples to make the necessary adjustments, but please understand, we did not ask for this either & we are all doing our best to keep our doors open to make it to the next wedding season. Be reasonable. If your contracted minimum is $30K & your caterer says they're not willing to lower it to $10K, understand that it's a $20K difference in their bottom line. Lowering your guest count should automatically lower your labor costs, so that should help some even if they aren't willing to lower your F&B minimum. Perspective is everything. If your caterer is either unwilling to lower your minimum or is unable to lower it as much as you would like, consider the upside of the fun you'll get to have with the culinary experience with a lower guest count. Luxe meals, lavish late-night snacks, extra courses, premium bar, butler passed Prosseco are all options to upgrade your dining experience to meet your minimums with a small guest count. Choosing to host your wedding with a smaller guest count is a choice, just as cancelling your wedding is a choice or postponing your wedding is a choice. All of these choices are yours to make, but they do each have their own financial implications and one of those implications may be still spending a pretty penny on catering for 35 guests. Step 3: Once you've reached an agreement with your caterer on the new F&B minimum, request a contract addendum for you both to sign. It should clearly lay out your new minimum and your adjusted payment details. Step 4: Repeat steps 2 & 3 with your florist. Same notes apply about being reasonable with an addition: your florist has extremely hard costs! If you're downsizing less than 45ish days out from your wedding, expect that they won't be able to lower your contracted amount. Step 5: Reach out to your vendor team to find out how many people they will have onsite for the wedding day. The 50 person gathering cap includes all staff. So DJ, photographer, videographer, catering staff, officiant, venue staff, etc. Plus you & the wedding party. Realistically, you're probably only looking at being able to have about 30 people in attendance given the total number of staff onsite. You can always your vendors if there are ways to decrease the number of people onsite. Maybe your photographer is willing to take the 2nd shooter out of your package. Maybe with the lowered guest count, your DJ doesn't need an assistant onsite, etc. Step 6: Review your guest list and choose who will be invited to attend. This is not going to be a fun conversation, but it's the necessary next step. Step 7: Call the guests who have been cut. Yes, I said it... CALL! If you're uninviting someone to your wedding, they deserve a phone call. This is not something you need to stress about. Everyone knows what is going on, but they still deserve a phone call letting them know the decision you've made and tell them that you would have loved to have them there. Step 8: Get creative about how you can make the most out of your new vision. There are so many amazing innovative services coming out of the industry that you can bring into your wedding to create an amazing experience for your guests and still have the celebration you've been waiting for... even if it's not the way you originally pictured it. Fun example: Our friends at Cage & Aquarium have launched a live stream experience for you to allow your guests to experience your wedding from home. BONUS IDEA: I am totally stealing this from our friends at Room 1520, but talk to your venue about the possibility of hosting your celebration in waves where you have 30 guests from 2-4, then close down for an hour for cleaning and bring in 30 more guests from 5-7, then close for an hour and another group of 30 from 9-11pm. Pro Tip: If you and your venue find a way to make this work, change your catering format to being a cocktail style reception verses a seated dinner. There you have it, 8 simple (not easy) steps to downsizing your Coronavirus wedding. Are you planning to host your wedding on it's original date? Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

6 Ways Coronavirus Will Change Weddings

The impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on events is not only unprecedented but also unexpected. As a professional planner, I spend my days thinking through details & ripple effects of choices. And if you had told me in December that I’d spend most of this year coaching and counseling couples from across the world via my COVID-19 Weddings Facebook group through impossible decisions of whether or not to postpone their wedding, when to postpone to, what they’re entitled to in terms of refunds or waived fees, how to communicate changes to guests, and rescheduling much of my own 2020 wedding season, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you. Hindsight being what it is, it’s obvious now that a global pandemic would send this type of shockwave through the events industry, but no one imagined it would ever happen. So as 2020 couples scramble to reschedule their weddings and exhaust their creative energies in an effort to make the most of a downright shitty situation, I’ve been analyzing the blowback this pandemic will have on the wedding industry into 2021 and beyond. Here are the 6 ways I think weddings will change because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Financial investment comfort zones will shrink. Besides the economic impact this pandemic is already causing, engaged couples in the beginning stages of planning are watching from the sidelines as Covid couples lose thousands of dollars. Whether it’s from vendors charging rescheduling fees, losing deposits because of vendors being booked on their rescheduled date AND having to pay to replace those vendors, or deciding to call off the entire big wedding and elope, there are many couples losing a lot of money. Future couples, at least for the foreseeable future, are not going to be comfortable investing the kind of money they have in weddings over the last several years. Guests lists will shrink. One of the biggest unknowns at this time is how long we’ll see strict regulations on the size of gatherings. As of today, our federal government is allowing gatherings no larger than 10 people to slow the spread of the virus. There’s much debate within the Wedding Industry on whether or not we’ll even see a 2020 wedding season because of extended restrictions on large gatherings. The truth is, no one knows the answer to this yet, but because of the uncertainty, couples are going to be limiting their guest counts to - my guess - under 100 guests - and even an increasing trend in micro-weddings (20 guests or less). Wedding party sizes will shrink. With smaller guests lists, it only stands to reason that wedding party sizes will shrink as well. Additionally, with so many travel plans being impacted, wedding attendants are dropping like flies from the current line ups, so couples will likely raise their bar on who they ask to stand next to them. Length of engagements with shrink. One of the most tragic choruses in my Facebook group is couples who have been planning their wedding for 2+ years now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel only to have to postpone. They are heartbroken and defeated. After so much time and anticipation, their wedding is now just a mirage and they have miles left to walk to their oasis. Newly engaged couples are going to see this tragedy played out in blogs and news articles and are going to shorten their engagements. And with smaller budgets and guests lists, this will be easy to accomplish Weddings will become less complicated. After watching the hoops Covid couples have had to jump through to reschedule their weddings, future couples are going to be more selective about the choices they make when planning their weddings & go for a more minimalist approach to wedding planning. Instead of the "have and do it all" mentality, couples will only include the things that hold value and importance to their day. Time to book will lengthen. After seeing Covid couples shocked by the policies in the contracts they signed, future couples will take longer to make decisions. There will be more couples reading their contracts thoroughly before signing and asking questions to make sure they fully understand the agreement, especially as it pertains to their protection from a future pandemic. This will require Wedding Pros to understand their own contracts thoroughly and be able to explain them & educate couples on why these policies exist, as well as know which policies they are willing to make exceptions to and which are non-negotiable. Regardless of how long local shutdowns last, the Coronavirus pandemic has left its mark on the Wedding Industry & we'll be living in its remains for years to come. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

COVID-19 & Your Wedding

Wow, you guys. What a week. I'm going to echo what a lot of Wedding Pros are saying. I never would have thought I'd spend any portion of my career, or my life, needing to lead people through a pandemic or national crisis like I am now. From being a mom, trying to explain to my girls who are too young to understand why we're not allowed to go to school or church or play with friends to being a Wedding Planner who has been trusted to guide families through the choices they encounter when planning their wedding, which now include conversations of postponement and cancellation. This week I have spent hours having conversations either trying to give some sense of peace to couples that haven't been affected yet and helping lead couples that are. Fortunately, my next wedding is 10 weeks away, meaning as of this moment, CDC and State mandates haven't required postponement from any LRE couples, however we all know that there are minute to minute changes with the severity of the virus and actions & regulations our government leaders are putting into place to keep us all safe. Here are the recommendations I'm giving to my couples: May couples: It’s time regretfully time to make a decision. CDC & State mandates are effective currently through May 10th and will quite possibly be extended. For late May couples, I'd recommend having a decision locked & loaded, but don't pull the trigger quite yet. Review your contracts carefully and understand that implications of cancellation or postponement.

June couples: have a decision in their back pocket about what they will do if mandates are loosened but still affect gatherings of their size. For example, if the state loosens the ban to 50 people. Will you cut your guest list or will you postpone?

July-September couples: take a beat, but start wrapping your mind around the potential options, but don’t start losing sleep. 4th Q 2020 & 2021 couples: Your favorite wedding pros need your support more than ever. Most of us are small businesses & cancellations of this magnitude are Earth shattering to us. Book your contracts, pay your deposits, keep planning! & Please be patient in delays in responses. We are doing our best to field questions from panicked couples, other pros & trying to sort through our own personal & professional confusion about this uncharted territory. And for the love of GOD, when insurance companies begin allowing consumers to buy new policies again, PLEASE get event insurance. The reality is that most insurance companies have clauses that protect them from paying out in the event of a pandemic, however there are plenty of other wedding related financial disasters that can be prevented by insurance. & incredibly shameless plug, if you don't already, please work with a Wedding Planner. Even if it's not me. Our couples are not alone in this! Now for some real talk on financial implications of cancellation & postponement: Cancellation: Please don't. I mean, I am always always always team couple. It's why I do what I do. I love supporting you and being your guide and having your back. But the reality is that cancellations will devastate our industry. Cancellations will result in the loss of million of dollars across Chicago alone that go towards feeding families and paying rent. At the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do, but if you cancel, please know that you are not entitled to and will probably not receive any refunds and quite possibly will still owe additional payment. The simple fact of the matter is that your payments have already been spent. They've paid my rent, my car payment, and daycare tuition. They've also paid for my email service and my client portal and my own business insurance that will too likely not protect me from losses from this catastrophe. Postponements: Some of you will have to. I know that & I promise your Wedding Industry is hell bent on doing our best to accommodate you. This isn't anymore your fault than it is ours. We know that. But please understand that there is no right way for us to handle this situation & you need to just accept whatever means your vendors have decided is right for them in moving forward. If that means they are allowing rebookings only on certain days (Fridays & Sundays for example), only allowing rebookings in 2020 or in off months. If they are charging change of scope fees or reschedule fees or charging for the rate difference between when you booked and the rebooking. Our calendar availability is limited and our rates are calculated based on our expenses and our availability to take weddings and the fact of the matter is that accommodating you means the likely loss of business. Some will be lenient. Some will not. But we all are just trying to survive right now and the shoot-straight-with-me answer you have come to expect from me is that it was your choice to have a luxury experience & these contracts you've signed are business agreements. And just like you are not at fault for COVID-19, neither are we. And just as you would expect your employer to pay you to do over work, most of your vendors will expect you to as well and they are not wrong for that. As I tell my preschoolers, you do not have to like it, but you do have to respect it. Any couple who is needing to postpone, I would recommend getting a list of available dates from their venue and sending out a Doodle poll to their entire vendor team to HOPEFULLY find a date that works for everyone. Once you do that, then ask what their policy is for the date change & adjust your budget accordingly. Now some hope: This whole thing sucks. Just absolutely sucks. We all feel it. We cry too. My Facebook groups are filled with questions & vents & meltdowns from YOUR wedding pros who are completely brokenhearted about this situation. And I am sorry. Sorry that you are experiencing this tragedy. Sorry that this day that is supposed to be so special has turned out to be anything but. However, just as with all tragedy, in time, with proper grieving, this will all be a distant memory... eventually. You will still get married, whether in the way you imagined or not. And years from now you will have had thousands of other experiences together both joyful & sorrowful. So goes the ebbs and flows of life. But just as light does not exist without darkness, joy does not exist without sorrow, so to be grateful for joy means being equally grateful for sorrow. But as the saying goes... this too shall pass. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

My Favorite Money Saving Wedding Trends

We all know weddings are expensive. When I talk with newly engaged couples & ask them what their number one concern is about their wedding it's always the bottom line. No one & I mean NO ONE wants to spend the cost of a college education on their wedding. And more and more I'm seeing couples who just won't & they are getting super creative in effort to cut costs. Here are some of my absolute fave new wedding tends that'll save you cold, hard cash. Intimate weddings. My average guest count in 2019 was 145 guests. A huge decline from my average of 225 in 2018. Small guest counts are the number 1 easiest way to cut your wedding budget and honestly I AM HERE FOR IT. Besides the moola it saves, I've found the smaller the guest count, the less stressed my couple is. Private ceremonies. Cocktail celebrations. I have no idea what creative genius came up with this idea, but I LOVE IT & I've had 4 couples so far this year call me with this vision. The concept is that they'll have a very private ceremony including only their very nearest and dearest, some at City Hall and some in a small garden venue or something similar. Then host private meal with those people (think rehearsal dinner) and then move on to an absolute rager celebration later that night with light bites, drinks & music with everyone they want to dance the night away with. These couples are also kicking all traditions like dances & speeches and making the entire night about celebrating. The beauty of this route is that it'll usually save on the number of hours you need certain vendors for, the number of hours you need the venue for, but also the catering bill going the route of heavy passed or stationed apps instead of a full blown seated dinner, plus your labor costs associated with catering & rental cost of linens & place settings. Plus, I think it kind of creates this wind up throughout the day of super special & intimate to the best party you'll ever throw. Brunch weddings. This trend is not only delicious, but practical AF. Brunch weddings save you cash for a few reasons. You can usually negotiate a lower rate on your venue since you're not taking up real estate during peak wedding hours. I also think that Sunday brunch weddings make the most sense for taking advantage of a venues Sunday wedding discount. You might also be able to negotiate a discount with a vendor that could take more than one wedding that day (spoiler alert: a Wedding Planner could not). & you can easily limit the bar options with much less push back than you could an evening wedding. Create a custom Mimosa, Bellini, or Bloody Mary bar with maybe a beer and wine option as well & your guests are set for 11am. Small or no bridal party. I've talked about it before, but your bridal party is expensive. We've had several couples over the last year opt or tiny or no bridal party & it always helps them save some dough. Bud vase centerpieces. Ok, so this is a go to design trend of mine for couples looking to make some cuts to their floral budget. Bud vases are so cute, but they use so much less product than a full blown arrangement & you can usually purchase bud vases super cheap at thrift shops. Deconstructed centerpieces. Another design trend I am loving. The beauty of deconstructed centerpieces is that they usually don't require a vessel to hold the flowers. & my floral friends are going to write me hate mail, but this is also an option that usually can be done wholesale and not require work with a florist if budget is tight. What's your favorite cash saving wedding trend? Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

How to Crisis Proof Your Wedding

This past Friday, I'm doing what I usually do during my morning cup of coffee, scrolling FB, scanning headlines & posts for anything interesting to take a deeper look at when I read a post in a Wedding Planner FB Group I'm in that made my stomach sink. "If you have clients booked at ANY of the Noah's Event Venues, they have permanently closed all locations." Well, this was the absolute shittiest start to my Friday because we have a lovely couple getting married there this May. So I furiously started Googling & calling every number I could find trying to get some insight as to whether or not their FULLY PAID balance would be refunded, as well as looking for venues with availability & that meet their requirements to relocate their wedding to. While these situations are not common, they are also not impossible. In fact, something similar happened with Alfred Angelo a few years ago, leaving brides & bridesmaids with fully paid dresses that would not be delivered. So what can you learn from this? 1. You need insurance & you need it early. I used to feel that wedding insurance was optional or only really necessary if there were legal reasons for it (for example, a BYOB venue that you could potentially be held liable as the alcohol provider in the event of a drinking and driving accident), but when the rumblings of a Noah's bankruptcy started to sound over the last year, I made the call to my couple & told them to get insurance & get it quickly & I AM SO GLAD I DID. I got this text from my bride yesterday: "I LOVE YOU! Seriously thank God for you! We are getting our money back in full from the insurance company." Which is a completely different song from hundreds of other affected couples that are out thousands of dollars & looking at the very real possibility of having to cancel their wedding. It's tragic. An event like this is unfortunate, but it won't be as hard if you're financially protected. 2. Have an emergency fund for your wedding. This Noah's fiasco is going to have a much larger ripple couples than just their wedding venue. They may have catering deposits that they'll lose, cake deposits, they may have to reschedule their wedding & lose their photographer who is now unavailable. Our couple was weeks away from their invitations going to print & would have had to reorder (& pay again) for those. Just like life, it's wise to have an emergency fund just in case. 3. Join some local wedding planning groups on Facebook. I, along with many other Planners & Couples found out about the Noah's Event Venue Closure from Facebook. Noah's corporate office handled the closure horribly, but thanks to good 'ol social media, many couples were able to get a heads up on the news before it hit... well, the evening news. 4. Working with a Wedding Planner has benefits you wouldn't expect it to have. This is the first & Lord I pray the LAST time I ever have to encounter this type of situation, but my couple, who started working with me 18 months ago, never dreamed that they'd be here today, touring venues for relocation 4 months before their wedding. But guess what? They have no for a single second had to navigate this shit show alone. I personally delivered the news about their venue closure and had already reached out to other venues to start gathering availability & pricing before they even knew. They also had a copy of their contract at the top of their inbox to send to their insurance company & someone to calmly & unemotionally tell them their next steps. Whether it's in a Wedding Management (AKA Day of Coordination) capacity or a Full Planning Experience, partnering with a professional Wedding Planner can help you navigate unexpected storms. We are so heartbroken to read of the thousand of couples being displaced from Noah's Event Venues across the country. If you're affected by this closure, please feel free to schedule a complimentary Strategy Call with our team to get some guidance on how to move forward. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

7 Parts of Wedding Planning That Are a Pain in the Ass, but Have to be Done

Were you one of the 100K people that got engaged this holiday season & quickly went from being super stoked to plan your wedding to realizing that it's going to be a huge pain in the ass? (this is a completely arbitrary statistic used only to make a point). If you are, you're not alone & today we're going to stop beating around the bush & help you see the annoyances coming. Here are our 7 parts of the wedding planning process that are a complete & total pain in the ass, but are unfortunately all necessary tasks to complete. 1. Deciding on a budget. Any wedding budget whether it's $5K or $500K is a lot of money. Add in the fact that you're going to have to have some uncomfy convos with each other about money that you might not have had before & some uncomfy convos with your fam... It sucks. Buuuuut it's necessary to pay for all the things. 2. Deciding on a guest list. Oh boy. There's so many layers of pain to this task. First of all, every single person you invite has a dollar amount attached to them, but you also don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Then you've got parents who want to invite their friends & if they're helping pay for the wedding, it gets even trickier. But before you can even start shopping for a venue, you need to have some idea of how many people you are inviting. PRO TIP: if you're wanting a smaller wedding, book a venue with a capacity limit of where you'd want to max out & use that as your excuse. 3. Picking a venue. So this is one of those tasks that is so much fun, but also just the fucking worst. It's the first contractual decision you need to make (besides if you decide to work with a planner for full service) & there are so many damn variables that all affect the end cost. Does the venue include table & chairs or will you need to rent them through your caterer? Is catering provided through the venue, is there a list of approved caterers or do they have an open catering policy? What about weather? Will you need a tent or some other last minute decision that might need to be made that will come with an added cost? What about bar? Do you have to get your bar package through your caterer or can you BYOB? What about the layout? Will it require a flip? Do they require insurance? But alas, you need a physical location to host your wedding so it has to be done. 4. Selecting a caterer. Again another task that is a lot of fun because FOOD, but it can be extraordinarily overwhelming and difficult because it is by and large the most money you'll spend on your wedding & there's so many damn options that all have different price tags. Trying to narrow in on the right caterer can be v v sucky. But being a good host requires you to feed people. 5. Receiving the initial floral proposal. Oh man, I love getting into the pretty part of wedding planning, but the first proposal you'll receive from your florist will most likely knock you on your ass because who knew flowers could cost so much?? (We'll be doing another post specifically about this soon) I guess this one isn't a NEED but we all want a pretty wedding, right? 6. Receiving RSVPs. I'm just going to come out and say it - wedding guests are the worst. Their the bane of my existence and will be yours too. Some people are not going to send back their cards & have you chasing after them for an answer, some will send them back late, some will lose them, some will change their minds & make you change the seating chart you already spent hours working on & some will RSVP and not show up because apparently that's acceptable, but we need a guest count so we know how food to order so... 7. The night before the wedding. Well meaning family (& Aunt Karen) will all be calling & texting you with a thousand questions that you've definitely already answered a thousand times, for example in the reminder email you sent out yesterday about the time & location of the rehearsal dinner. PRO TIP: This one doesn't have to be this way. Give your phone to someone else & tell them to deal. Planning your wedding is a very exciting time, but it's also a giant piece of shit task that at times will make you seriously consider eloping, but I have to meet a newly married couple that didn't feel like it was all worth it. Get a FREE Daily Wedding Planning Tip delivered straight to your inbox!

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